This week we’ll discuss a great red blend that tastes better to most people than the original—plus it costs a lot less.
We’ll examine some of the conditions that make wines grown in one place different that those grown in another and why.
Our September Food & Wine Lovers Trip to Spain is almost sold out. At last count only two seats were left. To read about our stay in Zaragoza, capital of Aragon, with trips to the Pyrenees, the desert, Rioja and the Basque country and more, go to brucecochran.com or call Susan at Poe Travel (501) 376-4171. As usual it’s off the tourist track so I take only small groups.
That’s it for now.
Taste something good this week!
Many of the world’s great red wines are made by blending more than one grape variety together, and one of the world’s most famous red blends originated in Bordeaux, France. Names like Chateaux Lafite-Rothschild, Mouton-Rothschild and Margaux rank among the world’s most illustrious, so it’s not surprising to see their combinations of grapes tried elsewhere.
Five grapes are allowed in Bordeaux’s reds: cabernet sauvignon, merlotcabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. The last three aren’t always used; most red Bordeaux contains at least the first two, in varying proportions according to the year and the location. In California this blend is called meritage (rhymes with “heritage”, though often pronounced differently). Wineries in Washington State have had success with this blend, too.
Most of the vineyards in Washington are on the dry, desert side of the Cascade Mountains and are irrigated from rivers like the Columbia and Yakima. Being able to control when the vineyards are watered can be a great advantage over nature’s timing of rainfall.
Another interesting aspect of Washington’s vineyards is their latitude, almost on a line with many of Bordeaux’s best properties. The 45th degree parallel is famous for great wines.
This gives Washington an average of two extra hours of daylight each day during the growing season.
Extra light means more photosynthesis in the vines. I don’t know if anyone can quite tell us exactly and completely what that does, but having the vines work overtime has to be a plus. And notice I said light, not heat. I think that’s a good thing, too. Hot days, but cool nights, is often a hallmark of good vineyard areas.
One of my favorite red Bordeaux blends from Washington actually includes a small percentage of an additional grape—shiraz (a.k.a. syrah). It’s called Melange, from Waterbrook, from grapes grown in the Columbia Valley. In flavor and style it sort of combines rich California-like fruit with Bordeaux-like elegance, leaving out the earthiness that many Americans really don’t like in Bordeaux. This wine can often be found for less than $20 a bottle. I’ve poured it for several groups with great success.
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